UNITED KINGDOM (OBSERVATORY) – British Prime Minister Theresa May summoned her senior ministers to a special cabinet meeting on Thursday to discuss joining the United States and France in possible military action against Syria over an alleged chemical attack on civilians.
After US President Donald Trump warned Russia on Wednesday of imminent military action in Syria, he said on Thursday a possible military strike against Syria “may be very close and may not be.”
Russia has warned the West against attacking its Syrian ally, President Bashar al-Assad, which is also backed by Iran and said there was no evidence of a chemical attack in the Syrian city of Damascus near Damascus.
May summoned ministers from the Easter holiday to attend a special cabinet meeting at Downing Street on Thursday at 3:30 pm (1430 GMT) to discuss Britain’s response to what it called a brutal attack that could not go unanswered.
“There is no decision so far,” David Davies, Britain’s minister for British withdrawal, said. The government will meet at 1530 (British time) to discuss the matter.”
“The situation in Syria is terrible. The use of chemical weapons is something that the world must prevent. But the circumstance is also very delicate and we have to make this decision on a deliberate basis.”
The escalation of tension over the Duma attack highlights the volatility of the Syrian civil war, which began with anti-Assad protests in March 2011 but turned into a proxy war involving global and regional forces and a complex group of armed factions.
The Syrian opposition Army of Islam was the first to speak of the attack on Saturday. It is planned that inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will investigate the incident.
A confrontation between Washington and Moscow?
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) said May was ready to take the decision to participate in the move led by the United States without the request of the prior approval of parliament. Downing Street spokesmen repeatedly declined to comment on the report.
“The chemical attack on Saturday in Duma, Syria, is shocking and brutal,” Mai told reporters on Wednesday. All indications are that the Syrian regime is responsible.”
May is not bound by parliament’s approval but there is a constitutional agreement that is not binding on parliament since the 2003 vote to join the US invasion of Iraq.
This agreement was later committed to military deployment in Libya and Iraq. Many legislators and British voters are skeptical about involvement in the Syrian war.
Opposition Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbin said the parliament must be consulted before May agreed to any military action.
“Imagine the scenario if a US missile drops a Russian plane or vice versa,” Corbin said. “How will we act?”
A poll by the YouGov Foundation published on Thursday showed only one in five British voters supported a missile strike on Syria. The survey said 43 percent of voters opposed such a strike, while 34 percent said they did not know what to do.
Britain is launching air strikes in Syria from its military base in Cyprus, but only targets the organization of an Islamic state.
The parliament voted to reject Britain’s participation in military action against the Assad government in 2013, causing embarrassment to David Cameron, the former British prime minister. This decision deterred the administration of former US President Barack Obama for military action.
Plans by British leaders to join the wars have been complicated in recent years by Britain’s decision to participate in the 2003 invasion of Iraq after it confirmed Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, a claim later found to be wrong.
But less than a year before Britain pulled out of the European Union, May wanted to strengthen its “special relationship” with the United States by broad-based free trade agreement that would help contain the consequences of London’s exit from the bloc.